Prominent Developer of Hyper Light Beaker Wants to Emphasize: This is Not a Sequel

Prominent Developer of Hyper Light Beaker Wants to Emphasize: This is Not a Sequel

Hyper Light Breaker might share a similar name to its 2016 predecessor, and it even takes place in the same universe (though it’s set 15 years earlier), but it’s a very different game from the atmospheric Zelda-like that blew fans away eight years ago. “It’s called Breaker for a reason, not Hyper Light Drifter 2,” creative director Alx Preston told me in a hands-on preview when I asked what the number one thing he wanted people to know was. “This is its own game…it stands on its own two legs.”

Unlike the secluded top-down pixel art indie darling that put Heart Machine on the map, Hyper Light Breaker is an online co-op hack-and-slash game with loot-based runs and extraction mechanics. Think NieR Automata meets Returnal, but with the neon color palette and evocatively brooding synth soundtrack Heart Machine (which also released Solar Ash in 2021) has become known for. Following its original March 2022 reveal and two subsequent delays, the game is now headed to Steam Early Access this summer and I recently got to experience the ambitious pitch for myself.

Hyper Light Breaker hands-on

Image: Heart Machine / Gearbox Entertainment

What is immediately clear is that, while not an actual sequel, Hyper Light Breaker still exudes the menacing beauty and gripping sense of place that I loved about Hyper Light Drifter. Composer Joel Corelitz’s soundtrack immediately sinks its hooks into my imagination, while saturated pinks, teals, and lime greens invite me to explore deeper into the procedurally-generated open world. I mop the floor with some slimes, go toe-to-toe with masked bandits, and get my ass kicked by a giant werewolf named Dro, one of the many bosses players will defeat on their way to taking on the “Abyss King” at the end of each new run.

A hand glider let me cross chasms, while a hover board let me surf by enemies to cover distances more quickly. Across subsequent runs I experimented with heavy and light melee weapons, as well as secondary pistols and shotguns. There’s also dodges, perfectly-timed parries, and a stagger mechanic to overcome enemies’ defenses and go ham on them. On paper everything makes sense, but I didn’t immediately find myself gelling with the pace or feel of combat. While serviceable enough, the moment-to-moment action didn’t grab me straight away like Hyper Light Breaker’s broader world and presentation did.

“I would say third-person melee combat is probably the hardest thing that you could do building out a game,” Preston said.“When it comes to direct interactions there’s a reason why a lot of developers don’t try and tackle it in great depth or detail and more rely on shooting, because third-person melee takes a lot of really specific attention to detail and tricks to make it work and feel satisfying and like you’re in control and it was your fault on the skill gap, versus the game’s fault on not telling you what information you need at the right time.”

Image for article titled Hyper Light Beaker Dev Really Wants You To Know It's Not A Sequel

Image: Heart Machine / Gearbox Entertainment

Whatever the right balance ends up being, it’s definitely something that can be fine-tuned in Early Access, which Heart Machine said could take a year or more. When the game initially arrives, it will feature “more than a prologue,” according to Preston, who compared the initial Early Access version to what Supergiant’s Hades offered when it first got into players’ hands. Multiple biomes we be available to explore in the open world, alongside different characters and builds. Most of the bosses and story elements, however, will arrive later on.

It’s easy to imagine what Hyper Light Breaker is chasing with all of these interlocking systems, from a world that becomes more hostile the longer you explore it before extracting back to a social hub area with your hard-earned loot, to the fact that up to three players can fight alongside one another simultaneously. Like Risk of Rain 2 and other loot-driven roguelites, Hyper Light Breaker has the potential to be a certain kind of player’s forever game, always teasing something new to discover or a new way to play. Dead Cells came out in 2018 and only just stopped receiving updates that massively refreshed the game each time last month.

Preston said last year that he doesn’t think the original Hyper Light Drifter could have the same sort of success releasing today as it did back in 2016. Does that mean Heart Machine will never make Hyper Light Drifter 2 fans like me have been dreaming of? “We might, I don’t know,” he mentioned in an aside when describing how Breaker is it’s own thing. Personally, I hope Breaker ends up being so good I stop thinking about the Drifter 2 we might never get.

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